Artists may trust to the innate power of their work to transcend its exploitation as propaganda. Or they may offer it precisely for such purposes (agit-prop). Or they may seek to withhold it by participation in a campaign of cultural boycott, a tactic being increasingly deployed against the Israeli state.
A seemingly exceptional situation arises when the political context from which art emerges is simultaneously the surface on which it is inscribed. The Berlin Wall has been described as “the world’s longest canvas” and was used as such by artists like Thierry Noir, Keith Haring and a host of unknowns.
However, this art appeared mostly on the Western side of the wall, and hence supposedly symbolized, in the words of a dedicated website, “the free expression of the open society of West Berlin” as opposed to “the blank walls of the repressed society that was East Berlin” (Berlin Wall Art).
Although the wall surrounded West Berlin, the citizens of that city were free to travel at will, unlike their East-Berlin counterparts. Hence, West Berlin wall art was viewed approvingly by the capitalist regime that would engulf the former German Democratic Republic once Germany was reunited, while those who sought to resist Stalinism from within were denied any such outlet.
Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank, including in and around East Jerusalem, was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in July 2004. Although it is often compared to the Berlin Wall, it differs in several essential aspects. The Israeli side — located within the so-called “free world” — is often decorated by officialdom with idyllic landscapes designed to conceal its “concrete” reality. On the Palestinian side, the interior walls of the prison that is the occupied West Bank, resistance art is now flourishing.
Unlike the East German authorities, the Israelis seem content to leave this art in place. This may be linked to the celebrity of some of the participating artists, in particular the Englishman Banksy whose “Girl with balloons” features on the cover of William Parry’s Against the Wall. Parry, a London-based journalist and photographer, documents “the art of resistance in Palestine.”
This beautifully produced book falls into a number of the traps concealed within the ambiguous art/politics relationship evoked above. However, it ultimately retains its value and impact as both a political and aesthetic document, perhaps exemplifying the German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s famous thesis that “[t]here is no document of culture that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”
One risk inherent in “political art” is that it may be seen to exploit oppression in the interests of an artist’s reputation and bank balance. Banksy’s 2007 “Santa’s Ghetto” project in Bethlehem, central to Against the Wall, sought to subvert these risks by forcing those wishing to view works by their favorite artists to travel to the occupied Palestinian territories and see for themselves the conditions under which Palestinians live.
However, if “the art of resistance” is thus equated with that of non-Palestinian celebrities, there is a risk that the agency of the Palestinians themselves is again being denied. Does such a project not itself symbolically enact the disempowerment it is supposedly opposing? The only Palestinian artist mentioned by name in this book is Suleiman Mansour (110) who apparently “participated in this project” (i.e., “Santa’s Ghetto”), but none of whose work is reproduced. The Palestinian artwork reproduced is invariably anonymous (147, 158-9).
Given the unsanctioned origins of street art and the guerilla-like tactics its creation often entails, it seems peculiarly adapted to a campaign for the destruction of the very surface on which it is created, in this case the apartheid wall. Further, such art invites and must tolerate the kind of defacement that is prohibited in the art gallery environment. Banksy’s “living room” scene has been “debeautified” with Arabic graffiti reading: “Park your car here for 3 NIS [New Israeli Shekels]” (29). His catapult-wielding rat was destroyed by locals who took offense at being compared (as they saw it) to a rodent (51), while his donkey undergoing a security check (110-111) was saved from a similar fate by the canny Palestinian owners of the building where it was painted, who removed the relevant section of wall and sold it to a Westerner.
Such cultural misunderstandings aside, the Palestinian response to this “outsider art” has been far from uncritical. The New York artist Swoon was “told by one of the elders from the refugee camp that they don’t necessarily want the kids to start viewing that area positively, and so they see the work as a thing of beauty, but in a place where beauty shouldn’t be.” Nonetheless, writes Parry, the people of Bethlehem “were effusive, ready to adopt Banksy as a son of the struggling city, given the number of tourists the project’s work has attracted” (10).
Parry’s text is impressively wide-ranging. His exposition of the historical and political realities of Palestinian life, particularly as it is bounded by the wall, is detailed, lucid and accurate. His photographs are themselves works of art, many of them focusing on Palestinian people and places rather than just on the artworks.
Yet the most striking photographs are those of artworks within their environment, such as the young Italian street artist Blu’s “giant baby, blowing soldiers made of money” on the wall near Aida refugee camp (64-65, and again, at dusk, 70-71). Indeed for me Blu, his compatriot Erica il Cane (“How the oppressed become the oppressor,” 68-9) and the Spaniard Sam3 (66-67, 68) stand out from the other named artists; their images seem to have more intrinsic subversive power than those of the more celebrated Banksy.
“Pardon our Oppression” is the title of a mural by the veteran Ron English (58-59), designed “to link American” — and European, he might have added — “support to the oppression of the Palestinian people.” Such a quasi-penitential acceptance of responsibility, common to much of the art reproduced here, extends the scope of “the art of resistance” to our Western societies and adds further depth to this tremendous and essential book.
Raymond Deane is a composer and Cultural Boycott Officer of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (www.ipsc.ie).
Although the recent scuffle seems to be about academic freedom, the assault on the Israeli academe is actually part of a much wider offensive against liberal values. Numerous forces in Israel are mobilizing in order to press forward an extreme-right political agenda.
McCarthy in Israel
By Neve Gordon
|… we should thank the Lord for creating extremists. Because the tight focus of their vision, not to say blindness, often, if unintentionally, shines a light for the rest of us.|
Celebrate Jewish New Year with a De-Occupation Seder
It says much about our times, that Rabbi Ovadia chose just this period and a Rosh Hashana tradition to unlock and unload on the Palestinians.
By Bradley Burston
Former Israel Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to followers, quoting a traditional Rosh Hashana table blessing before alluding to the resumption of U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen):
“May our enemies and those who hate us be put to an end, Abu Mazen and all these evil people, may they be made gone from the world. The Holy One, Blessed be He, should smite them with plague, they and these Palestinians, the evil Israel-baiters.”
A tradition from the Talmud holds that the things you do to begin a New Year will have a profound effect on the entire year you’re about to have. The foods you eat, how you sleep, and, especially, words spoken in anger.
It says much about our times, that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a man who has several times held veto power over the course of peace negotiations, chose just this period and just this tradition, to unlock and unload on the Palestinians.
Much has been said, and rightly so, in condemnation of the remarks, and of the pallid defenses mounted by followers.
However, Rosh Hashanah may be exactly the occasion to learn from Maran HaRav’s’s words, and, no less, his timing.
The run-up to Rosh Hashanah is meant to be a month of hard looks at oneself and hard apologies to others. That is where HaRav Ovadia comes in.
His words teach us, before all else, that we should thank the Lord for creating extremists. Because the tight focus of their vision, not to say blindness, often, if unintentionally, shines a light for the rest of us.
HaRav Ovadia’s words remind us that Rosh Hashanah is precisely the time to question our accustomed, unchallenged, most self-satisfied assumptions about ourselves. To reconsider the belief that we were right this year and those who took issue with us, wrong.
Especially this year. History may recall this as the year when Israel’s war posture turned inward, when the most direct and unrelenting threat to the survival of the state as we know it, was a multi-faceted effort, often behind the scenes and funded abroad, to clamp down on human rights for non-Jews and the left within Israel and in the West Bank.
Of late, there has been a mounting tendency within a newly-ascendant rightist intelligentsia – and a shady, gleefully disingenuous, young-ish underground anchored by the vengeful nerds of Im Tirzu – to equate self-criticism with treason, and self-congratulation with patriotism. Not Israel, Right or Wrong, but Israel Is Right, and Europe, the Western World as a whole, the Muslim World, the UN, and Barack Obama are all, sadly, wrong.
The words of Maran HaRav bring us crashing back to the purpose of Rosh Hashonah, which is, at root, dissatisfaction. Rosh Hashanah is a test. It is, as Israelis say of their intimidating high school finals, a bagrut – literally, a coming of age.
So, as adults who owe it to themselves to continue the process of coming of age at any age – which is the same as learning – HaRav Ovadia’s words could inspire us to take a fresh look at the Rosh Hashanah tradition he invoked, and at ourselves.
Guided by that table, and by the marvelous ritual called Simna Milta, or Significant Omens, We can choose, at the dawn of a New Year, the kind of year we set our sights on.
Thanks to a horrible year past and the firm and constant guidance of my teachers Im Tirzu, the Shalem Center, Avigdor Lieberman, Eli Yishai, Michael Ben-Ari, and The NGO Monitor, my resolution for this holiday is to celebrate a New Year of De-Occupation
May good deeds only increase: work toward the lessening of violence and the widening of diplomacy, toward the lessening of settlement and the widening of contacts with Palestinians, toward easing of restrictions on Palestinian civilians and the lifting of persecution over Israeli Bedouin, toward fairness and care for refugees and foreign workers, and a new relationship between the Jewish state and the Muslim world.
These, then, are the blessings and the foods of the Rosh Hashanah mini-seder called Significant Omens. They begin with blessings for the God Who created the fruits of trees and Who renews for us a sweet and new year, blessings over apples and honey.
The following blessings all begin Ye’hi Ratzohn Milfanecha, Adonai Eloheinu V’elohei Avoteinu – May it be Your will, Lord our God and Lord of our ancestors …
Symbol 1: Carrots [a play on the Yiddish word mehren, to increase], Fenugreek [Hilbe in Arabic, or Rubiyeh in Hebrew], or in the Syrian and Southern U.S. Jewish traditions, Black Eyed Peas.
… She’yirbu zch’uyo’teinu. … Often cryptically translated as “…that our merits increase.” These days, however, it would seem much more fitting to go with a more literal translation, embracing two meanings of the word z’chuyoteinu
“… that the rights of all increase, and our good deeds as well.”
Symbol 2: Leek or cabbage
… Sh’yikartu soneinu – “That those who hate us be cut off.”
In every case of relations with enemies, the traditional wording is ambiguous, suggesting that how we choose to relate to our enemies and those who hate us, and whether we continue to occupy them, could affect whether they remain enemies.
Symbol 3. Beets
… Shyistalku Oy’veinu – “That our enemies be gone.”
Symbol 4. Dates
… Sh’yitamu so’neinu – “That those who hate us be finished.”
Symbol 5. Pumpkin or Gourd
… Sh’yikra g’zar dinenu v’yi’kreh’u L’fanecha Zchuyoteinu
A prayer for the possibility of change, resisting the sense that all is foreordained, and doomed to misery.
“That the harsh verdict of our sentence be torn up, and the rights of all be proclaimed before You.”
Symbol 6. Pomegranate
… Sh’nirbeh zchuyot k’rimon.
“… That the rights of all increase as [the seeds of] a pomegranate.
Symbol 7 – Fish [Vegetarians may choose goldfish crackers or similar stand-ins.]
“… Sh’nifreh v’nirbeh k’dagim.”
” … That we grow and increase and flourish like fish.”
Symbol 8 – Head of a fish [Substitution: Garlic]
The blessing that can affect all the others:
“Sh’niyeh l’rohsh v’loh l’zanav.”
” … that we should be like the head and not like the tail.
Rosh Hashanah is at the door. A time for looking at ourselves with fresh honesty, and at others with new compassion. A time of vulnerability, and therefore, in theory, a time of risk, of danger, of weakness. In fact, of course, should we acknowledge it, a time of rare power.
Occupation is the deprivation of rights. The task of Rosh Hashanah is to help us find our way back to a moral path we have lost. That may be why De-Occupation starts at home.
“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.”- Newt Gingrich
Has Lebanon officially become more tolerant and progressive than the United States?
Let’s talk about Lebanon’s Ground Zero and you can decide for yourself.
One must first understand what “Ground Zero” means to most Lebanese.
In a country with about the same land mass as Los Angeles County which has been at war off and on for nearly four decades, “Ground Zero” for the Lebanese is arguably their entire country-and at the center of their Ground Zero is downtown Beirut, captured and occupied by the Israeli Defense Force in 1982 and which was almost entirely reduced to rubble from Muslim West Beirut to Christian East Beirut, and all points in between.
Once upon a time not too long ago, there was scarcely a building left standing or unscarred by shrapnel in all of Beirut. I know, because I was in Beirut in 1991, and witnessed first hand a city once described as “the Paris of the Middle East” reduced to ruins, pock marked with unexploded munitions and a haphazard “network” of open sewers.
Miraculously, Beirut was rebuilt and reclaimed its prominence. It once again became the jewel of the Arab world, remarkably able to bridge the ancient mystique of the east with the modern allure of the west.
Upon the first completion of its “rebuilding” process however–after 15 years and tens of billions of dollars spent on reconstructing Lebanon and its Ground Zero from rubble to splendor, Israel did what Israel does…
In July and August of 2006, Israel again followed through on its promise to “bomb Lebanon back into the Stone Age,” and in so doing displaced 1,000,000 Lebanese civilians (nearly a quarter of the country’s population), completely destroyed the country’s infrastructure (again), its only airport, at least 64 bridges, leveled entire buildings and neighborhoods to rubble (again), including the country’s largest milk factory, a food factory, two pharmaceutical plants, water treatment centers, power plants, grain silos, a Greek Orthodox Church, several mosques, and a handful of hospitals (in a country which only had a handful of hospitals to begin with).
Over 1,200 hundred Lebanese civilians were killed and over 5,000 wounded.
Israel routinely talks about “proportionality” when comparing their “terrorism deaths” to American 9/11 deaths. In order to shock the sensibilities of a gullible American public, they portray a figure “in American terms,” by multiplying their dead by a number which reflects their population in comparison to the American population.
Well, what’s good for the Israeli goose is good for the Lebanese gander. I will play their game: 1,200 dead Lebanese civilians are the “proportional equivalent” to 90,000 American dead when accounting for the two countries’ population differences. Therefore, according to Israeli goose math, that’s the equivalent of roughly thirty 9/11’s Israel exacted on Lebanon in July and August 2006 over the course of 34 days-nearly one 9/11 a day for an entire month without relent.
Incidentally, July and August of 2006 only tell a small part of the story when it comes to Israeli aggression against Lebanon. There have been decades of invasion, devastation, and occupation which predated 2006. Several thousands of Lebanese have been killed at the hands of the Israeli Defense Force. Tens of billions of dollars of damage have been levied on the Lebanese infrastructure and private and public property courtesy of the IDF over the course of decades.
“Ground Zero” for Lebanon is an ever expanding, never ending, open wound that never heals.
So what now Newt?
Should you expect the Lebanese to allow a synagogue to be built on their Ground Zero, in the aftermath of a 9/11 that occurred 5 years after ours and which, “proportionately” speaking, was 30 times the size of ours?
Well guess what you hateful, misguided, twit?
In the process of re-building Beirut yet again, in 2008, renovations began and have now been completed on the Maghen Abraham Synagogue located in the middle of newly renovated downtown Beirut in an area known as the “Solidere” which has become the focal point and showcase of Lebanon’s rebirth.
This isn’t some hole in the wall, nondescript, “excuse me” synagogue hidden out of view so as to not “offend” Lebanese non-Jews-this is an elaborate, ornate, beautifully designed, cathedral-style house of worship built for a Lebanese Jewish population that totals less than 500 in a country of more than 4,000,000 (in stark contrast to the eight million American Muslims living in the United States).
And wait until you hear Hezbollah’s response to the building of this Ground Zero Synagogue.
(To those expecting a Newt Gingrich equivalent response, prepare to be woefully disappointed).
Courtesy of Hassan Nasrallah himself: “We respect Judaism, just as we respect Christianity. Our only problem is with Israel.”
Did you hear that Newt (and the rest of you idiots)?
An Arab democracy, with a Muslim Prime Minister and a Christian President, allowed the building of a synagogue, squarely in the center of their “Ground Zero” in the heart and pride of downtown Beirut which used to be a dumping ground for Israeli military ordinances.
An Arab democracy allowed this, without so much as a protest being made by its citizens, or allegations by politicians that this was sacrilege, or hateful commentary by the media that the Jewish faith was barbaric, or any of the other stupidity I have seen and heard plastered all over American television, talk radio, and internet-blogs regarding a certain “Ground Zero Mosque” and the Islamic faith.
Regardless of whether you perceive Israel to be justified in perpetrating the devastation it did on Lebanon is irrelevant. The purpose of this article is not to debate that. What cannot be debated, is that Israel (a Jewish State, flying a Jewish flag) unleashed hell on Lebanon for 34 straight days in July and August of 2006 (and for decades prior in its wars against Lebanon). Regardless of whether or not you feel Israel had a right to do that, you cannot deny that Lebanese civilians harbored, and continue to harbor, a very real resentment against the government of Israel-this Jewish state-for those actions and the devestation those actions caused.
Yet these very Lebanese, who are so quickly labeled as “blood thirsty terrorists” by Newt Gingrich and his army of xenophobic morons, were able to draw a distinction between the Jews “flying those planes” in July and August of 2006 working at the behest of the Israeli government, and the Jews whom are citizens of Lebanon who had no connection with those attacks.
Lebanon rebuilt that Ground Zero Synagogue for its Jews.
Not for Israel. Not for the world’s Jewry. Not as a monument to mark a “Jewish victory” over Lebanon.
Lebanon rebuilt that Ground Zero Synagogue because its Jews lived in that neighborhood and they had every right to build a house of worship in a place they called home.
For crying out loud, Hassan Nassrallah and Hezbollah can even draw the distinction between a Lebanese Jew and an Israeli soldier who happens to be a Jew. So how is it that Americans can’t distinguish between American Muslims who were victims of 9/11 and Saudi Muslims who were the perpetrators of 9/11?
Thank you Mr. Gingrich for allowing Hassan Nasrallah and Hezbollah to outclass you and the Republican Party (and you Democrats aren’t too far behind–yes Harry Reid, I’m talking to you). When the former Republican Speaker of the House and the current Democratic Senate Majority Leader start sounding less tolerant and less reasonable than a “terrorist,” we need to start sounding the alarm bells.
In this regard, this lady has came with an excellent idea. She is promoting others, even the non-Muslim to wear a Hijab on this day to protest against the blasphemous and satanic act of this church. Information for this campaign can be found on their FaceBook Page… Wear Hijab on 9/11, Defy “Burn a Quran Day”
I am in no way saying that there are not ‘leaders’ of the Jewish religious community that use the Talmud as a means to justify the destruction of the Palestinian people, as well as all those who are not Jewish. I have endlessly posted about those neanderthals and exposed their hatred. But, to make claims such as the above is no different, all it does is incite hatred towards the Jews themselves, most of whom do not follow those ‘leaders’ or believe in the garbage that spouts from their mouths.
It must also be remembered that there are a growing number of Jews getting involved in the Pro Palestinian Movement. Many of them are observant, why are they being demonised as well? Many of them are actively involved in fighting aginst Islamophobia as well. Do they deserve to be demonised?
Here is just one of them at a recent demo in New York…
Yes, Lucifer himself walks among us these days, but that is not to say that we are all walking with him. Islamophobia kills, so does anti Semitism…. THOSE are the true manifestations of Satan.
* Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer of Palestinian descent born in the town of Beit Jala. His family was first evicted from Haifa after the “Nakba” of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the “Nakseh” of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.
Keep in mind as well that Observant Jews believe the Torah was handed down to Moses on Mt.Sinai by God…. The Talmud was written by men… we all know what they are capable of. THIS explains what the Talmud is.
So once again…. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between the Torah and the Talmud.
Eden Abergil’s now infamous photos do not represent anomalous, excess behavior. (Facebook)
While Abergil’s pictures may not seem as abhorrent as the Gaza and Mavi Marmara brutality — Abergil, for her part, described her behavior as nonviolent and free of contempt — all three actions are intimately connected. First of all, we must dispel the notion that Abergil’s photos are nonviolent. As with the Abu Ghraib debacle, a sexualized and coercive humiliation is being visited on the bodies of powerless, colonized and incarcerated subjects, which by any reasonable principle is a basal form of violence. There is also the obvious physical violence of Palestinians being bound and blindfolded, presumably in or on their way to prisons nobody will confuse with the Ritz Carlton.
More important, these recent episodes merely extend an age-old list of Israeli crimes and indignities that illuminate a depravity in the Zionist enterprise itself. What is noteworthy about Israel’s three recent escapades is that more and more people are starting to pay attention to its crimes and indignities. In so doing, more and more people are questioning the origin and meaning of Zionism — that is, the very idea of a legally ethnocentric Israel.
I would like to address this piece to those who have undertaken such questioning or to those who are prepared to initiate it. I would urge you not to limit your critique of Israel only to its errors of judgment or its perceived excesses; it is more productive to challenge the ideology and practice of Zionism itself. There is no noble origin or beautiful ideal to which the wayward Jewish state must return; such yearnings are often duplicitous mythmaking or romanticized nostalgia. Zionists always intended to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, a strategy they carried out and continue to pursue with horrifying efficiency.
Likewise, Zionism was always a colonialist movement, one that relied on the notions of divine entitlement and civilizational superiority that justified previous settlement projects in South Africa, Algeria and North America. Zionism, by virtue of its exclusionary outlook and ethnocentric model of citizenship, is on its own a purveyor of fundamental violence. The bad PR to which Israel sometimes is subject today is a reflection of changed media dynamics, not a worsening of Israel’s behavior.
The 2008-09 Gaza invasion, the attack on the Mavi Marmara and Abergil’s Facebook photos aren’t anomalous or extraordinary. They are the invariable result of a Zionist ideology that cannot help but view Palestinian Muslims and Christians as subhuman, no matter how ardently its liberal champions assert that Zionism is a liberation movement. Zionism has the unfortunate effect of proclaiming that one group of people should have access to certain rights from which another group of people is excluded. There is nothing defensible in this proposition.
Here, then, are four reasons why Americans (and all other humans regardless of race or religion) should oppose Zionism:
1. Zionism is unethical and immoral: Because Zionists claim access to land and legal rights that directly obviate the same access to an indigenous community, it operates from within an idea of belonging that is cruel and archaic. Israel bases its primary criterion for citizenship on religious identity. Imagine having your religion on your driver’s license. And imagine having limited access to freeways, farmland, family, education, employment and foreign travel because the religion by which the state has chosen to identify you is legally marginalized. Such is the daily reality of the Palestinian people.
2. Zionism is racist: This claim isn’t the same as saying that all Zionists are racist. I would make a distinction between the categories of “Zionist” and “Zionism.” However, inherent in the practice of Zionism is a reliance on racialist judgments about who can fully participate in the benefits and practices of a national community. Many Zionists view themselves merely as supporting freedom and safety for Jewish people. I would suggest that people who identify themselves as Zionist look more closely at the ideology they support. Such freedom and safety, both of which are in fact mythologies, come at the direct expense of people confined to Bantustans and refugee camps.
3. Zionism contravenes the geopolitical interests of the United States: Many Americans have heard former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert boast that he once pulled George W. Bush off the dais while Bush was giving a speech, or more recently current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing that “America is something that can be easily moved.” Israel costs the United States billions of dollars in direct aid and in bribe money to Jordan and Egypt for their docility. Israel also is the main reason for disgruntlement about American foreign policy in the Arab and Muslim Worlds. I raise this point with some hesitation because I believe all citizens of the United States should challenge and not celebrate American geopolitical interests. I would also point out that Zionism’s narrative of salvation and redemption resonates deeply among Americans because of the US’ origin and continued presence as a nation of settler colonists. In the end, America itself needs to be decolonized and the vast sums of money that support the imperial projects Israel so brazenly exemplifies need to be directed toward the well-being of those who pay the government its taxes.
4. Zionism is fundamentally incompatible with democracy: Israel, as a result, is undemocratic and will be as long as it uses religious identity as the operating criterion of citizenship. We hear much in the US about Islam being incompatible with democracy, a belief that is historically untrue and that elides the massive military and monetary support the US provides to the assortment of dictators and plutocrats that rule much of the Arab World. Neoconservative and mainstream commentators both evoke Israel in opposition to Islam as a symbol of democratic achievement. In reality Israel performs one of the most barbaric forms of oppression today in the West Bank and Gaza Strip while simultaneously discriminating against the Palestinian citizens of Israel who constitute approximately twenty percent of the citizenry.
The alternative media engendered by new technology have allowed more people to witness the unremitting violence that has been Israel’s stock in trade for decades. Many consumers of this information and these images believe that Israel is guilty of excess when a simpler explanation exists: Israel is acting out the requisites of an exclusionary and inherently violent ideology.
These days all it takes is a little braggadocio from an ex-soldier such as Eden Abergil to so perfectly symbolize the callousness of Zionist colonization. Ten years ago, the Israeli government’s lies about the killings aboard the Mavi Marmara would have been unchallenged by gruesome footage distributed through alternative news networks and social media. Nobody these days could have stopped the images of white phosphorous exploding and spreading over the Gaza Strip from being aired; Israelis themselves were foolish enough to capture Jewish children writing messages on soon-to-be-launched missiles.
Americans now have all the evidence they need for a reasonable and morally-sound conclusion, that Zionism produces a cruelty and truculence that they bankroll with their taxes and legitimize with either silence or consent. As a result, I am not arguing that Americans should reassess their level of support for Israel. I am arguing that Americans should oppose Zionism altogether. Perhaps in this way we might begin the long and difficult process of redeeming our own nation of its imperial sins.
New Orleans, Mr. O and Mr. Go
by Greg Palast
You want to know the name of the S.O.B. who attacked New Orleans? Locals call him “Mr. Go” – the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO).
MR-GO was undoubtedly the most bone-headed, deadly insane project ever built by the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a 76-mile long canal, straight as a gun barrel, running right up from the Gulf of Mexico to the heart of New Orleans.
In effect, MR-GO was a welcome mat to the city for Katrina. Experts call it “the Hurricane Highway.”
[Note: The Palast Investigative Fund is offering a download free of charge for the half-hour documentary, Big Easy to Big Empty during this week of commemoration.]
Until the Army Corps made this crazy gash in the Mississippi Delta fifty years ago, Mother Nature protected the Crescent City with a green wreath of cypress and mangrove. The environmental slash-job caused the government’s own hydrologist to raise alarms from Day One of construction.
Unless MR-GO was fixed or plugged, the Corps was inviting, “the possibility of catastrophic damage to urban areas by a hurricane surge coming up this waterway.” (I’m quoting from a report issued 17 years before The Flood.)
A forensic analysis by Dr. John W. Day calculated that if the Corps had left just 6 miles of wetlands in place of the open canal, the surge caused by Katrina’s wind would have been reduced by 4.5 feet and a lot of New Orleaneans would be alive today.
The Corps plugging its ears to the warnings was nothing less than “negligence, insouciance, myopia and shortsightedness.”
That list of fancy epithets poured from the angry pen of Federal Judge Stanwood Duval who heard the evidence in a suit filed by the surviving residents of the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard’s Parish. His Honor ruled that the drowning of the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish was a man-made disaster.
In November 2009, Judge Duval ordered the federal government to pay to rebuild homes, and compensate families of the dead.
The day Duval issued his verdict, I wrote in my notebook, “Barack Obama has before him a choice to make, one that will reveal the soul of his Presidency more than his choice of troop levels in Afghanistan: whether he will compensate the families who lost all they ever had, or appeal the court’s decision, and thereby ‘Bush’ New Orleans once again.”
But President Hope said ‘Nope.’ As the fifth anniversary of the drowning of the city approached, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder flat out refused payment and filed a notice of appeal.
It was George W. Bush who gave the middle finger to the victims of the Corps’ cruel negligence and fought the claims for compensation. Now, Obama has made Bush’s pitiless renunciation of New Orleans his own policy just as Obama turned Bush’s war in Afghanistan into his own
In fact, other presidents have said, we owe, we pay.
In 1974, President Gerald Ford ordered payment to the victims of the collapse of the Army Corps’ poorly built Teton Dam, Idaho, saying, “No government has the power to eliminate tragedy from human experience, but government can and government should act quickly to minimize the pain of a great disaster. Today, I am signing a bill which provides legislative authority for the compensation of personal and property damage sustained by the victims of the flood.”
Then, in 1994, after sea barriers built by the Army Corps failed in a storm washing away homes in Westhampton Dunes, New York, the Clinton Administration paid to rebuild every one of the $3 million mansions. Not only that: To insure that the hedge-fund sharks and media moguls in this wealthy Hamptons resort wouldn’t get their beach blankets wet, the feds paid an extra $25 million for sand to recreate the beachfront.
But the Ninth Ward isn’t the Hamptons, is it?
The facts are undeniable; even the government accepts that MR-GO threatened New Orleans. Congress has ordered the Army Corps to dump nearly half a million tons of rock into MR-GO to shut the damn thing.
Still, the Administration drags its feet on payment under the legal theory of “Discretionary Function.” In lay terms, that means, “Nyah, nyah, nyah! You can’t hold the Army Corps responsible for gross negligence.” The Justice Department also argued that the court should not consider the number of people drowned. Ugh.
Judge Duval slapped away the government’s cockamamie defense.
So then, Why oh why oh why would Obama, after his grandstanding about BP’s responsibility to the people of the Gulf Coast, refuse to compensate some of the same people for the far greater damage caused by the Corps?
Let me tell you: it goes beyond the money. To “make things right” means Obama would have to face down powers fiercer than any Taliban: Big Oil.
The widening of Mr. Go drowned New Orleans; it was not an Act of God. It was an Act of Chevron. An Act of Shell Oil. And, yes, an Act of BP.
The Army Corps admitted that it used its “discretion” to put shipping above safety. The choice was made to help the Gulf oil giants move their crude.
I talked with Jonathan Andry yesterday, the litigator for the Katrina survivors. Obama’s decision to appeal the verdict really set him off. “We gave $185 billion to AIG to pay off crooks. I represent people who lost their lives, their family homes, their jobs in one day.”
He seemed far more upset than I expected from an experienced litigator. On a hunch, I said, “Did you lose your own home?”
Andry was quieter. “Evacuated in one car with four kids, three cats, one dog and one wife to Faraday.” And they never came back. The home on Lake Pontchartrain, in the family for generations, was washed away. Just dirt there now.
Ever the reporter, I asked if he’d taken a photo of it. “Can’t look. Too painful.”
I think back to the river city where I once worked, where my own kids played and where I fell in love; and then I look at my President cowering behind his “discretionary function,” and I too find that what I see is much too painful.
Investigator Greg Palast’s film, Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans [see trailer] was created for Democracy Now! and LinkTV.
The Palast Investigative Fund is offering a free download of the film in commemoration of the 5th Anniversary of Katrina. Or make a tax-deductible donation and get the signed DVD which includes Amy Goodman interviewing Palast.
Head of Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says organization to set up editing groups to ensure Palestinian view is presented online. ‘Next regional war will be media war,’ he says
After a rightist group opened the first-ever Zionist editing group aimed at defending Israel on Wikipedia, a Palestinian organization plans to create its own Wikipedia editing program.
Palestinian Journalists Syndicate head Abdul Nasser An-Najar told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency that his organization plans to set up editing groups to counter attempts to present Israel’s view on Wikipedia. He urged the Palestinian Authority to take part in the initiative.
An-Najar warned that the next regional war would be a “media war,” adding that online information on the Israeli-Arab conflict shapes world opinion.
Last week the Yesha Council and the Yisrael Sheli (My Israel) organization opened a course to address the problem of what it referred to as pro-Arab bias on Wikipedia. In a one-day seminar, lecturers taught dozens of participants how to ensure that Israel’s view is presented on the online encyclopedia.
“We don’t want to change Wikipedia or turn it into a propaganda arm,” Naftali Bennett, director of the Yesha Council, was quoted by the Guardian as saying. “We just want to show the other side. People think that Israelis are mean, evil people who only want to hurt Arabs all day.”
Ayelet Shaked of Yisrael Sheli told the British newspaper the problem is that online, pro-Israeli activists are vastly outnumbered by pro-Palestinian voices. “We don’t want to give this arena to the other side,” she said. “But we are so few and they are so many. People in the US and Europe never hear about Israel’s side, with all the correct arguments and explanations.”
Shaked said the Israeli government is “not doing a very good job” of explaining Israel to the world.
And HERE is a post that appears on this Blog annually.
In praise of shame
What’s happening to us that we’re producing Abergils and Shapiras (and others) in increasing numbers?
It’s not only in the world of books that shame is taboo, where the only goal is to avoid it. We do the same in Israeli society, deftly moving the spotlight from our misdeeds to someone else’s alleged fault. Perhaps successfully, perhaps not, we try to convince ourselves that we bear no responsibility. What’s certain, though, is that this pattern allows us to avoid the introspection that might actually make us better people and, ultimately, a better country.
BY NOW, most of us have forgotten Eden Abergil, the former IDF soldier who posted on her Facebook page photographs of herself posing in front of bound and blindfolded Palestinians. What she did is revolting on a myriad of levels. For me, though, what was most astounding was her absolute unwillingness to consider the possibility that she had done anything wrong.
Did Abergil not care that she was humiliating those Palestinians (for they must have known that they were being photographed)? Did she not care that she was affecting how they would think of Jews? Did she not realize what the momentary (and sick) satisfaction she would get from this display of – of what? – might do to the image of her country as those photos flashed across the world, or the light it would cast on her (former) fellow soldiers, most of whom do their best to protect their country with incomparable decency?
At first, she feigned naïveté. “I still don’t understand what’s wrong,” she said to Army Radio, because the “pictures were taken in goodwill; there was no statement in them.”
But then, worst of all, she tried to shift the blame. She aimed her sights at the very army she’d betrayed, because she’d been informed that she’d be stripped of her rank. “The army let me down,” she said, expressing anger, not shame. “I’m sorry that I served in such [an] army.”
On that count, she’s right. It’s a shame that someone like her served in our army.
But Abergil is only sorry that she served in the army. She has no regret that she humiliated her prisoners, brought shame on the army or was raised without her parents teaching her that the best thing to do when you’re clearly wrong is to acknowledge that – and to grow from it. No, she’s part of the “healing the shame we don’t deserve” society, in which everyone except us is at fault.
At least the officer who is accused of having stolen laptops from one of the Turkish flotilla ships had the decency to cover his face at his first hearing. Is it possible that he’s now ashamed? One can only hope.
BUT THIS is not just an army matter. What about Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, whose recent book, Torat Hamelech, argues that non-Jews may be killed indiscriminately in war, and who asserts, in Chapter Five, that “even babies who [are innocent] – there is good reason to consider killing them because of the future danger that will be created if they are raised by evil-doers like their parents.”
So the police investigate Shapira for incitement, but instead of acknowledging that something is clearly amiss with religious education in parts of Israeli society, wide swathes of the rabbinate close ranks, arguing that rabbis must have freedom of expression. If the police can indict for this, religious freedom will be endangered, they insist. Magically, it’s now religious freedom that’s the issue, not the fact that some of the country’s religious “leadership” is condoning murder.
Whether or not this ought to be a police matter is a good question. But, so too, is the question of what is the ideal collective response to a book like Shapira’s. Is society well served when legalities afford us escape from confronting our painful failings? How is it that a country that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust can produce “religious” leaders who sanction the wholesale murder of babies? Most Israelis don’t see this as a reflection on our collective society.
What’s happening to us that we’re producing Abergils and Shapiras (and others) in ever increasing numbers? Do we not recognize the danger of our unwillingness to confront the shameful parts of who we’ve become? Of course we’re at war, and yes, we do have very real enemies. But when our battles blind us to the danger of being unwilling to admit that some dimensions of this society are simply shameful, haven’t we lost something sacred? With Israel so unfairly delegitimized at every turn, it is only natural that we will instinctively seek to defend the country we love. Sadly, there are too few Jews willing do to that today.
For the danger of constant self-justification is very real. If we continue this pattern of avoiding shame and shifting blame, even if we are successful in saving this country, we may wake up one day and realize that what we saved wasn’t worth having in the first place.
Anniversary of WTC Attack To Prompt Rallies Amid Holy Days
The anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks this year comes days before the New York State primaries, just as the controversy over the planned Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero seems to be coming to a full boil. This ninth anniversary also coincides with both the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of the Ramadan fast, and Shabbat Shuva, the Saturday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. All signs point to a fraught day around Ground Zero.
In addition to the memorial services that have taken place in Lower Manhattan every September 11 since 2001, a group opposed to the Muslim community center project has scheduled a rally that organizers expect to draw at least 10,000 people. The rally will feature Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch politician known for his anti-Muslim views. Meanwhile, some in the Muslim community worry that their Eid al-Fitr festivities will be misperceived as a celebration of the September 11 attacks.
“I think it will do the nation a great deal of good to see tens of thousands of patriots at Ground Zero,” said Pamela Geller, the blogger and right-wing political activist who is organizing the rally against Park51, as the Islamic center project is currently known. In past years, she said, the area around Ground Zero has been “overtaken by crackpots and truthers and commies and socialists and freaks” on the anniversary of the attacks.
Geller’s rally is set for 3 p.m. It is expected to follow the official ceremony, which has not yet been announced but has been held in recent years at Zuccotti Park, a tree-lined plaza overlooking a corner of Ground Zero.
Wilders, whose Party for Freedom is currently the third largest in the Dutch Parliament, rode to prominence in the Netherlands on a populist program emphasizing the threat posed by Muslim immigration. Besides advocating an end to such immigration, he has called for a ban on the sale and distribution in the Netherlands of the Quran, a book he compares to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
“The only issue by and large that he’s identified with is Islamophobia, as well as being anti-elite, increasingly,” said Cas Mudde, a visiting professor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University. “For Wilders it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white. It truly is Islam. That’s his only prejudice.”
Wilders has his defenders, including Daniel Pipes, director of the hawkish Middle East Forum. Pipes has praised Wilders for his support for Israel, his charisma, and his party’s mainstream conservative ideological roots.
Ilario Pantano, a Republican candidate in a congressional contest in North Carolina who is traveling to New York to speak at the rally, said that he had no problem appearing beside Wilders. “I’m particularly sensitive to the Islamic threat, and candidly I think that they find no worse enemy than Ilario Pantano,” Pantano said.
Another rally speaker, Gary Berntsen, a candidate for the Republican nomination in one of two New York Senate races, drew a distinction between himself and Wilders. “I’m not anti-Islamic,” Berntsen said. “It’s not what [Wilders] says that matters, [but] what I say.” Though he opposes the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, saying that it would constitute a security threat, Bernsten said, “What I say is, we need to respect Muslim Americans.”
Mudde said that Wilders is somewhat embattled in the Netherlands, where he is facing legal charges for inciting hatred and discrimination. “In a sense he does need also foreign people to speak out on his behalf,” Mudde said. “He [is looking] for a larger and in a sense more respectable movement against Islam.”
Geller said that the date of her rally was set for September 11 not in order to coincide with the commemorations, but in response to news reports that Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the leading figure behind the Park51 project, planned to break ground on the proposed building September 11, 2011. The Forward reported in June that Rauf had said that no such date had been set.
Meanwhile, half a block from the rally, services observing Eid al-Fitr will be held at the proposed future site of the Park51 project. Representatives for the mosque that currently uses the prayer space did not respond to requests for comment. But Kamal Wahad, a security guard on duty at the building, said that there probably would be more guards on duty during the three day festival, which begins on either September 10 or September 11, depending on observations of the moon.
“Certainly it’s either going to [begin] on the 10th or the 11th, and I would say that most of us are really praying that it falls on the 10th,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, second vice president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York and spiritual leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem. “We’re anticipating that the same religiously intolerant, bigoted people who are purposefully misrepresenting the Islamic faith, we know that there are going to be attempts to misrepresent the celebrations.”
A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Washington-based civil rights and advocacy group, said that there are discussions within the Muslim community about cancelling or postponing events like fairs and bazaars that often take place at the end of Ramadan.
“It’s fascinating how people seem to exclude Muslims from the tragedy of 9/11,” Wahad said. “They [perpetrators of the World Trade Center attack] wanted to kill us just as much as they wanted to kill other Americans. We feel sad that the perception is that somehow we didn’t participate and die in the event, when in fact we did.”
Rabbi Meyer Hager of the Wall Street Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox synagogue a few blocks from Ground Zero, said that his Shabbat Shuva service would include a special Hazkarah, or memorial service, in memory of members of the congregation who died in the September 11 attacks.
Later in the evening, after the larger commemoration and rally, one interfaith group is organizing what its spokesman called a “peaceful prayer service” on Pier 40, a few blocks uptown from Ground Zero. The Interfaith Center of New York will run a Buddhist memorial service and interfaith service with the New York Buddhist Church, in which rice paper lanterns with the names of September 11 victims and messages written on them will be kayaked into the river, lit and set afloat.
Another group, which supports the Islamic center project, said that it was setting its Lower Manhattan rally for September 12 to avoid getting embroiled in the complex politics of the preceding day. “We didn’t want to create an opportunity to conflict and clash with the [anti-Park51] protest,” said Frank Fredericks, a spokesman for the new group, Religious Freedom USA. “We didn’t want to distract from the memorializing nature of 9/11, and specifically for a 9/11 family member we felt like this was a very hard day, and we felt it would be very disrespectful for us to hold the demonstration on 9/11.”
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.
Just when you think that things can’t get worse…..
‘Sinner’ singer given 39 lashes by rabbis
Punishment for performance in front of “mixed audience”
A singer who performed in front of a “mixed audience”
of men and women was lashed 39 times to make him
“repent,” after a ruling by a self-described rabbinic court
Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, founder of the Shofar organization
aimed at bringing Jews “back to religion” (hazara betshuva),
has made it his recent mission to fight against musical
performances for both men and women.
His “judicial panel,” with Rabbi Ben Zion Mutsafi and
another member, sentenced Erez Yechiel to 39 lashes
in order to “rid him of his sins.”
In a video clip of the court posted on the Shofar Web site,
Ben Zion said that those who make others sin (mahtiei rabim),
such as artists who make men and women attend performances
or dance together, have no place in the world to come.
He displayed a leather strip he said was made by his father from
ass and bull skin, with which Yechiel was to have been
whipped. Yechiel, who said, “I accept upon myself the
lashing for my sins,”was ordered to stand by a wooden
poll with his head facing north (“from whence the evil
inclination comes”), his hands tied with a azure-colored
rope (“a symbol of mercy”), and served his “sentence.”
No “Home Sweet Home”
Five years after Katrina
Matt Pascarella and I encountered Patricia Thomas while she was breaking into a home at the Lafitte Housing Project in New Orleans. It was her own home. Nevertheless, if caught, she’d end up in the slammer. So would we. Matt was my producer for the film, Big Easy to Big Empty, and he encouraged my worst habits. I’d worked for the New Orleans Housing Authority years back and knew they wanted the poor black folk out of these pretty townhouses near the French Quarter. Katrina was an excuse for ethnic cleansing, American style. Matt and I skipped cuffs on this shoot, but were charged later by Homeland Security (see below). While I recorded the story of hidden evils on film, Matt gathered a story which no camera can capture. Here it is. – Greg Palast
by Matt Pascarella *
Four years ago, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I sat with Patricia Thomas. Greg Palast and I had just helped her break into her home in the Lafitte Projects. She had been locked out for a year. She showed us her former home, her belongings scattered everywhere, and wrestled out endless stories of post-Katrina life: how she struggled to find shelter over the last year, how they came and put bars on her doors and windows and locked her out, how it was “man made.”
I picked up a photo of her at Mardi Gras, taken a few years earlier, and compared it to what she looked like now. In the picture her hair was longer, her face younger, her smile deeper. Now her arms were wasted and thin, her eyes sunken into her face, and her bottom front teeth were gone. On most days, she told me, she wore her dead mother’s dentures, but today she had forgotten to put them in. Her own teeth broke off when escaping the rising waters. She had fallen face first onto the concrete slab that was her front porch. The very spot where we were sitting was where it had happened. Over my left shoulder, running the length of the building, was a scar, a stain from the water line.
August in Louisiana is unbearably hot for a Northern boy. Beads of sweat poured from my face, down my neck. Patricia went inside, found an old roll of paper towels in a kitchen cabinet and brought me one. The quilted paper had a kitschy design – a giant heart with words that said, “Home Sweet Home.”
I looked at her and wondered how this could happen in my country.
A few weeks before, I was in Mexico City with Palast covering the Presidential Election. A presidency had been stolen. People were on the streets screaming “Vota por Vota, Casilla por Casilla!” Count the votes! “Vote by Vote, box by box!” I had seen the aftermath of a massacre in a small village outside Mexico City. I had seen people from all over the country rise up in anger taking to the streets. I had seen the Zapatistas march and Subcomandante Marcos himself flanked by young women acting as a protective barrier. I had seen the house where Trotsky was stabbed in the back of the head with an ice pick.
When I finally left Mexico City, I remember being deeply confused. The kind of confusion that tears at the soul and has the ability to completely dismantle any preconceived notions of how to view the world. I was inspired to see so many people fighting for democracy, and yet a deep depression sunk in as the plane took off. I knew their efforts would not matter. I had seen the American ‘consultants’, the DC hacks, in the offices of the ruling party and I knew it was over.
Now, here I was – back home in the United States – outside a decimated house near the levees, trying to understand why a New Orleans native, Brod Bagert, was calling a friend who worked with the fire department. Brod was asking his old friend what the number “5” below the giant orange spray-painted X on the front of the house meant. But Brod already knew what it meant.
Here I was watching Brod, one year later, trying to convince himself that what had happened to his neighbors didn’t actually happen. After many long days of hearing countless horrifying stories and walking through miles of destruction, I now stood next to a grown man who was desperately trying to lie to himself simply because the alternative was too painful. I couldn’t hold back the tears. It was the first, and only, time in my professional life that I had to walk away from an interview. I hid out behind a smashed up, rotted out BMW and cried.
After a few minutes I returned to Brod. He hung up the phone, looked at Palast and me, and slowly choked, “Five people died here.”
He finally gave in to what had happened here: the sprayed “9-16” above that X meant that those five bodies had been left to decompose for nearly 19 days before being discovered by rescue crews.
Brod rubbed his eyes and we went inside the house. His fathomless sadness hardened into anger. We walked through a sand dune littered with toys into what was once the living room. I tried not to imagine the mom and dad and kids as water crushed them against the ceiling; as they clawed for one more breath.
Brod took us down the street to his home, that is, the sticks that were left of his home. He was breathing hard, he was shaking. “Old ladies watched the water come up to their nose, over their eyes and they drowned in houses just like this, in this neighborhood, because of reckless negligence that is unanswered for.”
I think back now, to those words, spoken four years ago and wonder if it will ever be answered.
We then met Stephen Smith. He worked at the Marriott hotel, but had no car and no way to get out when the Mayor said to get out. Stephen pulled a dozen neighbors to a bridge over the rising water for four days as helicopters whirled overhead. Four days in the humid sun. No food. An old man gave his grandchildren his only bottle of water; then the old man died of dehydration. Stephen now works in a grocery store in Houston where FEMA ultimately dumped him. His kids live in Baton Rouge.
The next day Palast and I drove up to Baton Rouge to confront the company that was contracted to come up with an evacuation plan for the City of New Orleans. They had refused all of our interview requests, so we showed up at their offices to request a copy of the plan in person. We were quickly thrown out, they threatened to call security. They knew what we knew: There was no plan.
We drove out to the town of Baker. There, we surreptitiously passed through a security checkpoint before funneling into a massive FEMA trailer park. Here we met Pamela Lewis who told us her story of escaping the flood. Despite having MS, she pushed a boat with her 86-year-old mother, other relatives and neighbors through the streets of New Orleans. When she got to a bridge, armed men yelled at her, called her a nigger, and commanded her to turn around. They didn’t want a boat full of black people coming into their neighborhood. She then managed to make it to the Superdome where she was sprayed down by hoses, tossed on a bus, and then told to pay a fare and get off. She had no idea where she was.
We finished filming. Pamela stood in front of the car next to her trailer, and I locked eyes with her. I put the car in reverse and backed out, leaving her there, alone, not knowing what she was going to do with her life.
We drove back to New Orleans, passing an Exxon Oil Refinery – the only thing near Pamela’s trailer park. Several weeks later, at the request of Exxon, Homeland Security would file a criminal complaint against me and Palast under the anti-terrorism PATRIOT Act for filming “critical infrastructure.” The only thing critical about that refinery was the pollution it was spewing near what had become a refugee camp.
Five years have gone by and it is rare if a week passes that I don’t think of New Orleans. Nearly two thousand people lost their lives. An entire city was decimated. People were killed by the very police officers who were supposed to be protecting them. Hundreds of thousands lost their homes and livelihoods. To this day there are some still living in FEMA trailers. Patricia died a few years back in a horrible car accident; Lafitte, her home, has since been demolished.
My job was to go, to report, and then go home. My job was to leave Patricia, Pamela, Brod and countless others whom I had encountered, behind – to place them in a compartment in my mind, and to move on to the next story. Yet I never quite managed to do that with New Orleans. Maybe it was easier for me to cope in places like Mexico, but New Orleans was America. It happened in my country. All of the people I met in New Orleans – their images, their words – have, over the years, crystallized into a vivid sense of disenchantment with the romantic narrative of America I was taught as a child.
I sit here now, thumb through my old notebook that is labeled in black marker “NOLA” and find the paper towel Patricia gave me. It still reads, next to that big, faded heart, “Home Sweet Home.”
*Matt Pascarella produced the Greg Palast investigation, Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans.
Ahmed H. Sharif, a taxi driver, was stabbed by a passenger on Tuesday.
In that spirit, let me declare that we in New York are Jews and Christians and Muslims, and we always have been. And above all of that, we are Americans, each with an equal right to worship and pray where we choose. There is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off limits to any religion.
By affirming that basic idea, we will honor America’s values and we will keep New York the most open, diverse, tolerant, and free city in the world.
TOLERANT….. that is the key word.
DIVERSE ….. another key word.
Speeches are fine, but let us together work towards the day when hate crimes based on one’s colour, creed or nationality become history.
Let us together work to establish a real citizens committee against defamation and hate, one that will not only battle hatred, but the hate groups in disguise as well.
Let us consume hatred before it consumes all of us, one by one….. ACT NOW…. before they come for you!